19th Century Russian Literature


Pechorin-predestined or just pretentious?

Pechorin says so many things, some clever, some true, some troubling, but is he honest with himself? Choose one of your favorite lines from his diary and comment on it, it as reflected in Pechorin and its relevance to today.


Hero of Our Time

There is a youthful energy to this text that is really a series of five stories bundled together into a whole that some call a marvelous psychological novel. What do we learn about Pechorin in each section as we see him through three sets of eyes?


The Queen of Spades

This is a complex tale that has spawned a Chaikovsky opera (sometimes know even in English under the French title Pique Dame] and several films. The inclusion of the card game (faro) opens a whole new world of associations. You will find several useful and entertaining  links below, but at the end of the day you must read the story and comment on it. Watch carefully the role of numbers, the city, time, the physical framing of characters (windows, chairs, coffins), coincidence. Is this romanticism or realism (but be sure to define those terms for yourself and your fellow readers)?

Stranger than Fiction? Man accused in North Carolina ‘scaring’ death pleads not guilty.

Saint Germain

Deck of Cards Song (Text)

The Game of Faro (History)

The Opera (Listen)

The Film

The Russian  Пиковая дама.


Musings on How We Best Learn Literature.

A recent student survey indicates that Midd students have lots of practice in reading and writing. But far less in presenting and defending their ideas orally. How can we/should we move to integrate more of you to encourage and enhance learning in our course on Russian literature?


The Station Master and The Amateur Maid

Are we seeing a repeat of Poor Liza in poor Dunya? Is she poor or pure? Who is innocent or guilty in this story? How do the pictures of the Prodigal Son inform us? Why are the inscriptions in German?

As for the final story of Belkin’s Tales, what is Pushkin trying to accomplish? And does he?


Pushkin’s “The Shot” and “The Snowstorm.”

“But let us return to the worthy proprietors of Nenaradova, and see what is happening there.


More than once our assumptions and expectations are proven incorrect as the narratives unfold. The narratives themselves are also collections, like little Russian nested dolls, matryoshkas, where one story is embedded in side of another. Pushkin also treats us to superbly balanced stories.

There is much more to these seemingly simple stories. What struck your fancy?


Sentimentalism and Poor Liza

This story is most often characterized as “sentimentalism.” The author intends to evoke a strong emotional response to his characters and narrative. At some level we as readers are to enjoy this evocation of sentiment. You may answer anyone of these questions, but be sure to read the responses that predate your own.

1) How does the narrator establish an atmoshphre conducive to a strong emotional response?

2) What gets “lost in translation” from the story to the cartoon?

3) How are we to judge the value of this (or any) story? Is there a moral lesson? Are we “better” human beings for having read it?

4) Do you think it possible to write such a story and believe in it? Or is this author manipulating us like puppets, simply to prove that he can?

5) Why can we not simply accept the hard reality of life and appreciate Erast’s decision?


What should one learn from a course on literature?

Students and professors may and likely do have differing opinions on the content and form of a course on literature.  What are your expectations? What are you hoping to learn? If you are not the first comment, then examine and think about what has come before you. Your answer need not be long, but it should be thoughtful.

If you need help on posting a comment, examine the other posts and pages of this blog. Essentially you have to log in with your Midd user name and password.


Making this Monologue a Dialogue

If you look above you will see a title on The Course and its Content. if you click on it you will see the schedule, the list of readings, and a set of my expectations. I am looking at this point for your comments about my first posting, below this one. In order to comment you must log in using your Middlebury user name and password. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you.


Why Blog?

I’m wondering if students have enough time to read the assignments, post their responses, work on their projects, and then have time left over for blogging. And if so, why and how and what?

In order to comment you must log in using your Middlebury user name and password. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you. Any and all comments are welcome.

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